Musician Rob Morsberger Pays Tribute to Dr. McKhann and Dr. Lavine
52 year old singer/songwriter Rob Morsberger gave a special tribute to two of our neurosurgeons, Dr. McKhann and Dr. Lavine, in the liner notes of his latest CD, Ghosts Before Breakfast:
“To Dr. Guy McKhann for helping me live to complete this album…to Drs. Lavine, Elkind and all the incredible nurses and staff at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Neurology Department who cared for me and moved me deeply with their brilliance and dedication.”
Last September, while finishing the album, Morsberger says, with complaints of a headache, “I was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma, the worst manifestation of the most malignant kind of brain cancer. This is not a survivable illness.”
The diagnosis stunned the 52 year old singer and his family. Morsberger has four children: sons, Ben (23), Jesse (17) and Elan (7); and daughter Evy (21).
“I never had any symptoms from this tumor,” says Morsberger. “No one knows how long it has been there. One day I just got this headache that got worse and worse.”
At his local Hospital in the Hudson Valley, a CT scan revealed that he had a large bleed in his brain. At the time, they couldn’t pinpoint the cause. Not equipped to take care of this level of brain injury, the doctors there sent him down to Columbia Presbyterian in New York City.
At Columbia, Dr. Sean Lavine from the Endovascular Center began the search for the cause of the bleeding by performing an angiogram. “He was great and his team was fantastic,” says Morsberger. “I was awake through the whole thing. I score television shows and I have actually scored that exact procedure. I have watched it in my studio and written music to it–that was an amazing experience.”
After the procedure, Morsberger says Dr. Lavine told him he suspected a tumor was causing the bleeding.
Dr. Guy McKhann from the Brain Tumor Center was called in and he recommended surgery. “I was very impressed with him immediately,” says Morsberger. “I would gladly have followed anything just from how he presented himself.”
Dr. Lavine’s suspicion was confirmed the following day when Dr. McKhann removed a tumor from the left side of Morsberger’s brain.
Despite the devastating diagnosis, Morsberger says, “I appreciated everyone at the Hospital and it was really a great experience. The nurses were fantastic. Dr. Mitchell Elkind too. He did the [Neurology] rounds every day.”
“It was a very straight forward recovery and all my symptoms disappeared very quickly,” he says. “That is how amazing these surgeons are; I had my surgery on a Tuesday and I was back in the studio on Thursday feeling pretty good.”
Morsberger got back to work on Ghosts Before Breakfast, and the album was released to rave reviews just two months later.
“When I was in the hospital,” says Morsberger. “It really hit me how much this record clearly anticipated my illness–particularly the song ‘Feather in a Stream.’ I realized that, deep down, I saw this coming and it came out in my writing.”
Now, six months after surgery, Morsberger says his feelings have changed, “I am less interested in seeing the record as some sort of forecast because I don’t want that story to come true just yet. The future is obviously very uncertain and sometimes I can get a little pessimistic, but most of the time I am not. Right now I feel good.”
Morsberger says he is not letting his diagnosis slow him down, “I have been touring and making records. I’m just finishing my sixth record and working on other people’s things too. I just worked on this new Patti Smith record that is coming out in the Spring and a Loudon Wainwright album too.”
Morsberger says,“I’ve had the great good fortune of working with some of the best musicians in the world on an ongoing relationship for years. It is very similar to see these surgeons [Dr. Lavine and Dr. McKhann] that are so gifted. They are brilliant. They mean a lot to me, not just because they helped me but because they help so many.”